By Ndanki Kahiurika and Shinovene Immanuel | 19 December 2017
A CONSORTIUM of highly connected Namibians teamed up with a global fishing company that is at the heart of allegations of evading paying tax in Namibia.
Watch here: Namibia’s fishy marriage
Some of these Namibians involved have been accused of turning a blind eye to claims of financial irregularities in the Atlantic Pacific Fishing, a subsidiary of Pacific Andes.
The Namibian reported last month about how the international fishing firm, Pacific Andes, used its company in Mauritius to pay less tax to the Namibian government.
Some of the prominent people involved are former agriculture deputy minister Theo Diergaardt, former State House employee Matthew Gowaseb, retired President Sam Nujoma’s personal assistant, John Nauta, retired police chief Raonga Andima and the deputy permanent secretary in the Office of the President Mbumba Erastus Haitengela.
Some of the shareholders are fuming that they were paid peanuts as dividends while some prominent co-owners were paid more money because of their high positions.
The Namibian reported last month that experts who interpreted the financial reports of Atlantic Pacific Fishing said the company avoided paying around N$12 million less tax in Namibia between 2013 and 2014.
Pacific Andes rejected claims that it cheated the tax system, saying the allegations are false and that the company paid all the required taxes to the Namibian government.
The German newspaper, Süddeutsche Zeitung that received leaked information about tax dodging by several people and companies, shared it with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists last year.
Ninety-six media houses were involved in the probe of the leak that is popularly known as the Paradise Papers. The leak showed how individuals, criminals and corporations avoided paying taxes in various countries.
Pacific Andes went to great lengths to pay as little tax as possible in Namibia.
Some of the Namibians who co-owned Atlantic Pacific Fishing are now distancing themselves from the company despite documents showing that they either served as directors or co-owned the company.
This story also provides an example of how politicians, their families and cronies make millions from fishing quotas in the name of empowerment.
The fishing sector, under the smokescreen of indigenous empowerment, has primarily become a paradise for a clique of elites, who break no sweat in getting fishing quotas they sell to the Spanish, Chinese and other investors.
Pacific Andes moved into Namibia’s horse mackerel sector (also known as maasbanker) in 2012 and partnered with prominent Namibians in a Namibian company called Atlantic Pacific Fishing (Pty) Ltd, which was 51% owned by several locals and 49% by Pacific Andes.
The local companies are owned by over 15 well-connected Namibians who occupy or occupied positions close to state power.
Diergaardt was appointed to the Atlantic Pacific Fishing board in February 2013 when he was the lands deputy minister, while Gowaseb became a director of Atlantic Pacific Fishing in November 2013. Gowaseb served as a special adviser to the Prime Minister and also a management expert in the Office of the President until April 2015 when he resigned.
Both Diergaardt and Gowaseb are said to have been sympathetic to the Chinese.
Nujoma’s aide, Nauta, who was appointed on the Atlantic Pacific Fishing board in February 2013, yesterday confirmed that he was part of the partnership but said that “we later learned through our lawyers that we had been crooked”.
He did not give further details.
The deputy permanent secretary in the office of the President, Mbumba Haitengela, was also a director of the company.
Namibian partners in this company said Haitengela is one of the people who received special treatment from the Chinese.He declined to comment. This fishing story also shows how the consortium links to Sam Nujoma’s charity foundation.
Ephraim Ileka, who was an executive secretary to former President Nujoma, represented the Sam Nujoma Foundation in a company called Egongelo Fishing which in turn had a partnership in Atlantic Pacific Fishing. He declined to comment.
Another well-connected Namibian who is linked to Atlantic Pacific Fishing is Ananias Elago, a former deputy director of elections at the Electoral Commission of Namibia, the national body tasked with running elections. He was appointed to the board of the company in December 2011.
Elago denied links to the company despite documents showing that he was involved.
Interestingly, Elago, who works for the ECN, is a director of Egongelo Fishing which is co-owned by Nujoma’s foundation.
Retired police chief Andima, a former chief executive of the military-owned company, August 26 Holdings, was also a director of Atlantic Fishing.
He said he represented the Namibia National Liberation Veterans Association because he was the president of the organisation.
OTHER BIG CHEESE
The partners of the company also involved key administrators of ministries.
This includes mine permanent secretary Simeon Negumbo who served as a director. He declined to comment.
Another director of Atlantic Pacific Fishing was Raimo Naanda, the deputy permanent secretary in the higher education ministry.
Naanda said he was never a director of Atlantic Pacific, despite documents showing that he was and attended meetings of the company.
Former Windhoek mayor Matheus Shikongo was also a director of Atlantic Fishing via his company called Young Rangers Fishing Company.
Shikongo did not respond to questions sent to him.
Atlantic Pacific Fishing was accused in 2013 by workers of poor working conditions on its vessel.
The company appointed Elias Manga, a former president of the National Union of Namibian Workers. NUNW is a powerful federation that is a partner to the ruling party Swapo.
Manga became a director of Atlantic Pacific Fishing in October 2014, two years after he was fired as the president of the federation.
Manga confirmed that he was a director until early this year when the company started closing down.
He said the company has been falling apart since it was set up.
The global fishing company did not only have politicians and business people with links to power, but it also roped in Sandro de Gouveia, a retired national team football player.
De Gouveia, who was part of Namibia’s football golden age in the 90’s, was one of few critics of the Chinese linked company.
He was appointed to the Atlantic Pacific Fishing board in February 2013 via his company San Fishing.
The ex-footballer denied being a director in the company, despite documents showing that he was.
!Oe≠Gan traditional community leader chief Immanuel Gaseb had ties to Atlantic Pacific via their company called Dorado Fishing.
The !Oe≠Gan community live in the Okombahe area of Erongo region. Gaseb yesterday said their lawyers are dealing with the matter. “The issue was a painful one. I do not want to talk about it. We are just waiting for what will come at the end of the day,” he said.
Documents also show that Maria Nampolo, an investment promotion executive at the Namibia Investment Centre in the trade ministry, was also a director of the tax dodging firm.
The centre was created to promote foreign investments to Namibia. Nampolo joined Atlantic Pacific Fishing in December 2011.
Another director is Adolf Burger, the managing director at Atlantic Pacific.
People familiar with the dealings of the company said some owners of the consortium questioned the high salary he was earning at the company. He declined to comment.
*This story was produced by The Namibian’s Investigative Unit. Send us story tips via your secure email to: